We knew this was coming. We just didn't know how or when. It seems the comments on this site are getting to be more than even the liberal-with-a-sense-of-humor set can take anymore. Quite simply, the tone of the comments of late is not funny, valuable to the conversation or fair to the readership.
We do not want to be faced with commenters who don't dare comment, writers who are afraid to post for fear of personal attacks and sources that dry up due to the aspersions cast upon them and their careers.
I've had comments ranging from: "You have to get rid of them!" to "Can't you just run the site with no comments?" to "Those hateful commenters have one thing I wish I had: spare time." Yesterday I got this letter:
The blog comments are out of control and ruining the pleasure of reading BRO. Only rarely do I read comments anymore, and when I do...I wonder why. I might scan for follow-up comments from WCP or Steel, etc. Otherwise, it's an embarrassing portrait about what BRO has become: a billboard for racist and hate-filled commentary. Nothing wrong with contradictory or opposing exchanges, but c'mon...really, I know you know what I'm talking about (gaustad, BetterThanDetroit, nononono...etc.)
Oh, don't get me wrong, I'll continue to read the stories but I won't participate by posting.
I strongly suggest that BRO consider a format change to stories only, with a monitored, selected sampling of blog comments only--along the lines of the print BR. A month or so ago I remember a Queenseyes story that BRO software/business model fact-finding was in process to eliminate offensive remarks/promote quality exchanges. It can't come too soon. Is it coming soon?
Just thought you might want to know what one reader thinks.
Do I want to lose a reader like that? No way. Do I want him to be silenced because he's afraid the gates will open and the hounds of hell will attack? Absolutely not.
Last week, I received this:
I was e-mailing to ask you how frustrated are you with all the ridiculous negative and nasty comments after the BRO articles? It's getting to the point that I am hesitant to read anything and certainly will not forward anymore articles until it dies down. One of my dearest friends lives in Charlotte and I will often send her links and interesting articles. Incredible negativity! I can understand disagreeing with something but lately it's just a continuous slap-down and especially Newell bashing. The guy tries to do so much good for the city and people cannot even find an ounce of respect or thankfulness, disgusting! I know this was brought up in an article recently about what to do. I am casting my vote to remove the comment section altogether, it's getting so out of hand! It's one thing to have "discussion" but these posts don't resemble anything like that. What are your thoughts?
You know I am one of BRO's biggest supporters and will continue to be. I just wondered if all of you are as frustrated and annoyed as I am?
Well, yes. I am.
And then last night, this:
If there was a stay-on-topic policy, we could delete 90 percent of their posts. All they do is attack the contributor and then go after any commenters. We want debate and other points of view (and reality checks now and then), but attacking and trying to outdo each other with outrageousness is tiresome.
We're not big on editing as a rule. We have policy about racial comments, obscenity, gratuitous foul language, threat of violence, and making unsubstantiated claims about an individual. I'm beginning to think I'm too liberal on the side of tolerating that which should not be tolerated. We DO NOT delete that which we simply don't agree with, though there are those who accuse us of it.
Generally, I leave slurs against those of us who are BRO alone. There was a day when commenters would come to the rescue, but I think most of the nice people, the real Good Neighbors, have become weary. Some don't read the comments, have pressed the "avoid user" button or don't want to comment because they know they'll be attacked.
So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to delete, in its entirety, any post that is off-topic, slanderous, has foul language, obscenity, violence or attacks anyone on the basis of gender or ethnicity. And I will eliminate the ability to comment on a three-strike rule.* I realize some will choose to go down flaming. We'll make it short-lived if you alert me quickly.
I ask that all comments worthy of a strike be directed to me at email@example.com. I am not a puritan. I want you to know that nonono referring to the "Squatters' morgue on Wadsworth" would probably not be a strike, while three more posts made about Buf State will most likely see the end of Chris69 unless he can control himself.
I've never agreed with punishing many to make a point with a few, but if the site has become so troll-infested that the good citizens avoid it, we've got to fix it right away. Let's see if we can't make life more pleasant for those who deserve it, starting now.
*I will block those who return as any derivative of their former name without question.